Sunken Diamond Cardinal

While the Alumni Game was my first autograph experience at Stanford, it didn’t take long before I started to collect autographs at the regular season games themselves.

It was the 1988 Topps Traded set that pulled me in. The Team USA cards were very cool* and the fact that Topps included a Head Coach card of Mark Marquess meant I felt obligated to try and get it signed. The two Stanford players on the team—Ed Sprague and Doug Robbins—were both drafted in 1988** but I knew Marquess would be back in charge of the Cardinal for the 1989 season.

*I remember going to a Team USA practice at Sunken Diamond in the summer of 1988. Other than going to the practice—I didn’t even hang around to get a ball signed—the one thing that I do remember is that everyone was talking about Jim Abbott.

**I did eventually get their cards signed at the Alumni Game.

I have two of these signed. The first one is arguably worth adding to my Beginnings post since it’s the first hanging-over-the-rail autograph I ever got. I’d learned to use a Sharpie (albeit a black one) by 1989 but hadn’t learned how to handle the card so it didn’t get all banged up.

The second one is from a couple of years later. I’m not sure where I got the duplicate but Marquess was such a fixture that I felt like “upgrading” from my previous signature.

By 1990 I’d branched out and started to get other items signed. I was still very much a literal autograph collector who only wanted the people pictures on the item to sign it.* So I got Paul Carey’s signature on both the 1989 and 1990 scorecards and Troy Paulsen on the 1989 one.

*Something I’ve encouraged my son to avoid doing since it’s nice to recognize that a score card or program is a great platform for an entire team set of signatures.

I also brought the 1989 scorecard to a subsequent Alumni Game to be signed by Frank Carey and Steve Chitren. And I trimmed them from 8.5″×11″ to 8″×10″ because I hadn’t learned about the two different single-pocket sizes yet. Yeah. Lots of things I wish I’d done differently here but I still really like these for what they represent about this stage of my life and how earnestly I was taking the hobby despite not knowing really anything I was doing.

I was still figuring things out in 1991. Where the ball I got at the Alumni Game used a ballpoint pen on imitation leather, this one uses a Sharpie on real leather and demonstrates exactly why that’s not the best idea. Ink bleeds and fades and none of the signatures* are really crisp now.

*1—Ryan Turner, David Holbrook, Matt Bokemeier. 2—Roger Burnett, Jeffrey Hammonds. 3—Frank Carey, Paul Carey, Willie Adams, John Reid. 4—Troy Tallman, Aaron Dorlarque.

I think I got this one hanging out by the clubhouse door at Sunken Diamond. I was enough of a fan to recognize the players in the street clothes now. I’m more amazed that my mom just waited for me in the car while I hung out after the game. There’s a reason she’s laughing at me now.

By 1992 I had things figured out. I’d realized that the Official Pac 10 baseballs were manufactured by Diamond and, while I couldn’t buy a clean Pac 10 ball I could afford to buy an all-leather generic Diamond ball at Big 5. So we’ve got the closest approximation to a Pac 10 ball, real leather, and ballpoint pen. It’s aged perfectly.

I wasn’t going for a team ball at this point but rather was collecting who I had determined were the most-promising prospects on the team.* Some decent calls on my part since four of the seven did make it to the bigs. But I also missed just as many names since some of the newer guys** turned out to be pretty good. Plus the biggest name on this team was John Lynch who went on to bugger and better things on the gridiron.

*1—Mark Marquess. 2—Steve Solomon, Willie Adams, David McCarty, Scott Weiss. 3—Jeffrey Hammonds, Chris Kemper. 4—Brian Sackinsky.

**Jed Hansen, Dusty Allen, Rick Helling, and Andrew Lorraine.

At the same time I was getting these balls signed I was also getting the Topps Traded Team USA cards signed. There was always at least one Stanford guy each year. Rick Helling was a transfer in 1992 and for some reason I completely blew getting his 1991 card signed but the other ones I managed to get. This was always a lot of fun since it involved getting a real-deal Topps card signed and that was always something all the players liked to see.

I especially love the Hinch card because I’ve seen his signature show up on a lot of celebratory Astros stuff the past couple of years and it’s fascinating how much it’s changed in the two-dozen years since he signed for me. I sort of want to get a duplicate of this card and have it signed now just to compare the two.

Another thing I started doing was getting our season ticket signed by whoever I determined were the most prominent players who would be leaving the team after this season. This idea was inspired by my Mike Mussina autograph the previous season. I really liked the way it worked out as a way of commemorating who I thought was the player of note each year.

So in 1991 I got our ticket signed by Roger Burnett and David McCarty. In 1992, Jeffrey Hammonds And in 1993, Andrew Lorraine. I could look at the rosters and think about guys I missed but at least each of these seasons is represented by a player who made it to the majors.

Finally, I have this signed Baseball America. I’d started getting these signed a couple years earlier* since the college preview issue frequently featured Pac 10 players. 1993 was Stanford’s turn. Two of the three made it to the majors. One ended up winning a World Series as a manager. Not exactly the prospecting payoff I was hoping for as a kid but this turned out okay.

*Will be covered in a later post.

I’ve had this folded in half in a sleeve for decades. It’s clearly kept it in mostly good shape with only a little yellowing on the exposed edge. I’m trying to figure out if there’s a better way to keep it going forward. Too big to binder. Not really the kind of thing I’d want to frame. Maybe I’ll have to consider the portfolio route.

Author: Nick Vossbrink

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at, and the web at

17 thoughts on “Sunken Diamond Cardinal”

  1. Oh man. I had that issue of Baseball America back in the day. Never once have I thought about it in the last twenty-six years… until I saw it at the end of this post. That was such as great newspaper. I’d carry them around in my backpack during college to read in between classes.

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